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My daughter is 15-month old. She has been breast-fed and bottle-fed since the beginning, interchanging between the two. Since 10-month we have started feeding her more "adult" food, such as vegetables and eggs. At about the same time, we have also started limiting breastfeeding to bed time, when my daughter craves for it the most.

I think she is one of the luckier children in Hong Kong to get such a long period of breastfeeding.

My wife is thinking of stopping to breastfeed because she can't keep up with my daughter's appetite. Plus, my daughter has already developed 12 teeth, so sometimes she accidentally bites and it hurts my wife.

My wife's interests aside, is there any real need to wean a child from breast milk or infant formula on purpose? Do children lose interest in breast milk and infant formula naturally?

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Both of my children decided they didn't want breastmilk anymore. I guess they liked bananas better. –  KitFox Aug 1 '12 at 19:54
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My mom said that once the baby starts biting that is when she stops breastfeeding. –  BillyNair Aug 1 '12 at 20:26
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2 Answers 2

Short Answer: No, but the mother's needs are highly important, and it's safe to wean if she feels it's time.


At a certain point, somewhere between 6 and 12 months, breastfeeding is no longer providing everything nutritional the baby needs. From around 12 months, it's no longer nutritionally necessary to breastfeed, as the baby will be getting everything they need from real food.

This lack of complete nutrition from the breast isn't harmful in any way, as long as the baby's getting "real" food as well, and is still putting on weight, but it's important to be aware that hunger is a sign that it's no longer sufficient on its own. This is probably why the baby's seeming hungry on the breast, as her "feeding" isn't filling her up.

However, breastfeeding is also about the relationship between the mother and baby. While I appreciate you want to look at other factors, this really is the most critical thing about breast-feeding other than nutrition.

On the one hand, your baby will be drawing comfort from the feed, and both sides will be forming a bond, and this is obviously a benefit. It can also last a long time, which is why some mothers breast-feed even after two years.

On the other hand, if the mother is becoming stressed by the fact that she's not actually "filling" the baby, and if it's hurting her, then it that relationship needs to change in a controlled and supportive way, or it may start to fall apart, causing stress to all parties.

The key thing here is that, while the needs of the baby are obviously paramount, the needs of the mother are a major factor in that. If the mother, as primary carer, is under stress and miserable, that is far more important to the baby than what form of nutrition he/she's getting. (for example, calm & happy bottle-feeding mother is better than stressed & miserable breast-feeding mother)

This is the primary reason to start weaning before the baby initiates/completes it themselves.

As far as waiting for the baby to self-wean, this is obviously the best case scenario, but be aware that he/she doesn't know what she's doing. The baby won't be aware that they're not drawing food from the milk, and while they'll definitely pick up on any stress, they won't understand the reasons. They may be quite happy to wean, but just require a little push.

This babycentre link is a good source of information on how to go about encouraging the baby to wean.

Their 3 core ideas are:

  • Comfort her in other ways
  • Postponing feeds
  • Pick your moment (Don't force it when the child is distressed/ill)
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Great points but I disagree with your assumption that a baby does not know how to self-wean. Of course they do, that's why it's called "self-weaning". A baby can flat out refuse the breast or reduce their feedings. Many babies self-wean earlier if the mother gets pregnant and they dislike the taste of the new milk being made for the new baby. And I didn't understand "they won't be aware that they're not drawing food from milk" because breast milk does offer some nourishment still. –  Rhea Aug 14 '12 at 2:57
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My wife's interests aside, is there any real need to wean a child from breast milk or infant formula on purpose?

No, there is no real "need" to wean a child from breastmilk on purpose if Mom is okay with prolonging breastfeeding and the child is developing fine. (Aside: after they are 12 months old you may offer an alternative milk - goat's milk or cow's milk - in lieu of infant formula). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding up to 2 years old - "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond."

This link has a good chart on making sure your child is well nourished during this transition period.

Do children lose interest in breast milk and infant formula naturally?

Yes, "if given the opportunity, most babies will breastfeed until they naturally outgrow the need, which appears to be sometime between two and a half and seven years of age" (The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, La Leche League International, pg. 314). As children get older they will start preferring their drinks from a glass or sippy cup and more likely faster if they observe older children doing so. As the previous answer states, breastfeeding is also about a relationship. Children can relate that comfort they get from the breast to a transitional object like a "lovey", stuffed animal, or a blanket. Mom can start including these objects during nursing to see which one the child takes to. Include the object in your bedtime routine so that she can gradually wean the night nursings.

Plus, my daughter has already developed 12 teeth, so sometimes she accidentally bites and it hurts my wife.

My 16 month old has bitten me on occasion. Immediately when it happens, Mom should say "no" (or "no" in the primary language used) and remove the breast (insert a finger in their mouth to avoid hurting the nipple during removal) to teach the child. They don't want to hurt Mom. It has worked for me and I have been fortunate to have kept it down to 4 instances.

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